A game of epic proportions was looming in this week’s Second Division XXXX Rivalry Round match.
Throughout 2013 rivals Pine Rivers Bears and Gaters showed why they had the edge to both qualify for last year’s grand final in a showpiece game of rugby league. This week’s game proved no different with a stellar performance by both teams that saw a huge crowd pile into Matheson Oval for what was one of the most anticipated games of the year.
The atmosphere at the ground was absolutely electric and you could cut the tension with a knife as both sets of supporters came out in force in bitterly cold conditions to watch one of the most eagerly awaited games of the season.
Both teams did not disappoint the crowd with the opening softening up periods and some bone jarring defence by both sides showed why they are both premiership contenders this season.
Pine Rivers led by inspirational captain Daniel Culgan and his co forwards Samir Hadzijusufovic and Kevin Sherriff were brilliant in defence and leading the way for Gaters were the trio of Daniel Hurms, Manu Pipitele and Josh Carpenter who were simply outstanding.
Pine Rivers drew first blood in the 16th min with Brett Zgrajewski throwing a brilliant pass that found a rampaging Culgan who powered his way over the line to take the Bears to a 4-0 lead. Conversion was unsuccessful by Jordan Mitchell and the Bears confidence lifted in front of their supporters early on.
Gaters tried desperately to get over the Bears line on repeat sets of six, however the Bears defence was absolutely rock solid and there was no finding any holes that frustrated at times the Gaters attack.
Some big charging runs by Hadzijusufovic and James Hicks saw the Bears make some good meters up the middle which led to Pine Rivers next try.
A clever pass by Mitchell found robust replacement Bryce Turner to go over in front of the can bar and the Bears were on a roll at 8-0. A beautiful conversion from Mitchell saw Pine Rivers shoot out to a 10-0 lead and go into halftime with a slim but crucial lead.
Gaters also had their fair share of textbook rugby league on show and at times their centre pairing of Malaseto Mataele and Matt Murray were simply devastating in both defence and attack. James Crawford was also dynamic with the boot and put up some towering bombs that had the howling wind make the ball virtually impossible to catch.
Things got even better for Pine Rivers in the second half when halfback Mitchell who was by far the busiest player on the field, sold a ridiculous dummy and stepped off his left foot to unleash a cross field kick that found giant winger Mitchell Bertwistle take an AFL style catch to score in the corner. The conversion was waved away but this had the Bears in a very commanding lead and the scoreline was not reflecting in what was a very close tussle.
Gaters however had a chance on two occasions to go in and score with winger Wood and hooker Brad James being held up by the Bears defence. Some nibble runs by diminutive fullback Stuart Everitt also paved the way with some great Gaters attack.
The Gaters finally crossed the tryline in the 63rd min with speedy winger Matt Dunphy latching onto a great pass from centre Murray to score a well deserved consolation try. The conversion was superbly kicked from the sideline by five-eighth Brent Boyd and had the Bears 16-6 up. Pine Rivers however were looking tired, offering little in attack in the end but still proving rock solid in defence.
Despite waves of pressure in the last quarter of the game, the visitors were unable to tack on further points and Gaters looked mighty close in reducing the deficit in the closing minutes through Boyd who despite Pine Rivers defence, was able to duck and weave his way through the line and throw a speculative pass that sailed into touch.
This was certainly a perfect way to a grandstand finish in what was one of the most entertaining games of the season and surely will go down as one of the games of the year. Pine Rivers 16 Gaters 6.
In other games ...
Dayboro 32 continued their winning streak beating natives 20. Brothers Juniors 40 thrashed Valleys 6, Aspley 20 def Deception bay 0 (forfeit), Mitchelton 36 posted their first win of the season beating Normanby 28.
Points Aspley 16, Pine Rivers 14, Dayboro 10, Brothers Juniors 10, Deception Bay Bombers 10, Gaters 8, Normanby 4, Valleys 4, Brisbane Natives 2, Mitchelton 2.